Blueberries, Raspberries and Figs, Oh My!

     Summer is fast approaching here in the southern US of A. The grass grows a foot each time it rains. Everything shimmers in myriad shades of green. Flowers are in full bloom and the fruits of summer are starting to fill out seductively. I am absolutely convinced that there is nothing better on this earth than the taste of a fresh raspberry plucked from the bush and popped into one's mouth on a warm summer's morning. It's like butter, baby - without the fat!

     We grow enough raspberries, blueberries and figs to keep our family happy, almost. I doubt a farm full of raspberries would be enough for my kids. Our dog has also gotten in on the action. She was a rescue pet, the litter left abandoned in a field in the Georgia Mountain foothills. We think she might have had to graze to stay alive - or at least she acts like it. She definitely likes our fruit, especially the raspberries. At least she has good taste.

     So what do you do with all of this fruit, you ask. If there is enough left over from daily foraging of my kids, dog and husband, I make deserts and try to incorporate them into many of our meals. The addition of fruit to our summer suppers is another pleasure of the season. Roast pork or chicken tastes wonderful accompanied by blueberry chutney or peach salsa.

     I have also been known to put up jams, jellies and other preserves. Sometimes I have been looked at rather strangely when buying canning jars and supplies. After all we live in the south and at a time when you can pretty much get anything you want all year long in the grocery store for less money and trouble than it takes to make your own, right?

     Well, yes and no. I'm not putting down commercial products, but doesn't it make you wonder what is in them that makes them stay "fresh" on a shelf for like a hundred years without going bad? I mean, that has its place in these busy times but I much prefer the taste and texture of homemade preserves and the knowledge of what actually went into the jar because I put it there.

     Among our favorite fruits of summer are blackberries, the big juicy ones that stain your fingers purple when you pick them. Sweet blueberries that make the most wonderful cobblers and pies. Raspberries are a must and super sweet figs, which grow nearly wild in our yard. Recipes to use these beauties are endless. I've included a few of our favorites below.

     If you don't have the yard space or the energy to grow these fruits yourself try going to a U-Pick farm in your area. Resources for farms and what they offer are usually available from your State Agriculture Department. Many of them have regular bulletins that go out each season. We have done this each year for a long time. I think it did my children good to grow up with the knowledge that fruits and vegetables do not magically appear on the grocer's shelves. They learned that man and nature have got to work together to produce this bounty. It's definitely a delicious lesson to learn.

Jill Jones is a "Jill of all trades", webmaster, writer, wife and mother of a blended family of five. This article may be used with permission for educational and informational purposes. Direct questions and inquiries to jill@herbalgardens.com